Several people who live in a small area of southeast Arroyo Grande say they enjoy what they describe as the quiet, off-the-beaten-path nature of their neighborhood.
However, as plans for an overnight parking test program at a nearby church have developed, the neighborhoods isolation has become one of their arguments against the proposal.
It is a quiet little neighborhood, sort of out of the way from everything, said Jaclynn Nisbett, who has lived there since 1990. And in this instance, that isnt a good thing.
If approved by the Arroyo Grande City Council on Tuesday, the program would allow up to three vehicles to park overnight at St. Barnabas Episcopal Church at 301 Trinity Ave., at the end of a residential street near the Traffic Way intersection with Highway 101.
After six months, if city officials deem the program successful, up to five vehicles could be allowed.
The city Planning Commission recommended approval of the plan earlier this month.
The city says it has received 11 emails and letters about the program, six from people opposed and five from those supporting it.
Supporters, including those with the South County Peoples Kitchen and the 5Cities Homeless Coalition, urge the council to give a few local homeless people a safe place to sleep in their vehicles.
One supporter, a member of St. Barnabas, noted that women, children and the elderly will be given priority for the spaces.
When my wife Shirley taught at (Arroyo Grande High), she often told me about the shame homeless students felt and their fear of being humiliated if their classmates saw them sleeping in a car, Tom Holgate wrote. Because St. Barnabas is located away from busy streets, staying in our church parking lot would provide children of all ages with relative anonymity.
According to the most recent countywide Homeless Enumeration Report, children account for about 49 percent of the 4,000 people who reported themselves as homeless.
Those opposed, all neighbors or property owners, are concerned the street does not have what they described as the proper speed limit signs, that the parking lot cannot be easily supervised and that allowing overnight parking could prompt others who are not in the program to park overnight along Trinity Avenue.
A few suggested that church members allow a few people to sleep inside their facility, or work with other groups to find another location.
The No. 1 concern is safety. You have to drive though a residential neighborhood to get up there, neighbor Julie Wobrock said. I wouldnt want to park up there at night because theres nothing around there.
The Rev. Valerie Valle of St. Barnabas, who brought the proposal to the city last year, sent a letter to neighbors last week addressing some of their concerns.
In response to their questions about overnight monitoring, church members have decided to have a member stay overnight for the first month of the program.
Valle plans to sleep in the parking lot in her own van during the first week of the program.
We have no desire to be antagonistic with our neighbors, she said. I understand their concerns, but we also have people parking in illegal places around the city, and theyre our neighbors too.
If it goes ahead, the program would be limited to those with a connection to South County, either through work, school or family. Before being accepted, Arroyo Grande police would check for a history of violent crimes or sexual offenses.
Participants would be issued permits, would only be able to enter the church parking lot between 7 and 9 p.m. and must leave by 7 a.m.
Participants wouldnt have access to the church; instead, a portable toilet with a hand-washing station would be outside.
The Arroyo Grande City Council meeting starts at 7 p.m. at 215 E. Branch St. For more information, call 473-5400 or visit www.arroyogrande.org.